Music: An Interview with Rebel Few

Rebel Few band, Barry Martin, Chris Raposo, Jordan Malcolm, Mark Johnston

If music personified could show up to your house on the back of a motorcycle, kick down your door, burn your TOP-40 radio collection on your front lawn, and then flip you the bird as it left you jaw-dropped in the wake of its sonic existence… that music would be the music of Rebel Few.

Not quite 100% rock and roll, not quite 100% heavy metal – this underdog outlaw band of brothers hailing out of Cambridge, Ontario (Canada) IS 100% attitude… and you’ll feel that in your bones within the first seconds after you press play.

I had a chance to catch up with the entire band for an interview to see how things are going in the Rebel Few camp. We got to talking about the band and their name change from West Memphis Suicide and life in the ever-changing music business. We also went over how through it all, the band’s renegade attitude still remains the core for a group and fanbase that continuously say “no thanks” to following the trends so many others seek approval from.

This interview comes with a warning: the band and I have an extensive history of friendship and performing together… so in catching up, throughout this interview… there is laughter and lots of it.

Me: So we have a history between us – I already have a reasonably good idea of what you guys are all about. We’ve shared the stage many times in the past, and you guys were always one of my favorite bands not only to play with but also to stand in the audience and watch as well. However… let’s pretend that whoever reading this right now has never met you before or heard of Rebel Few. What’s Rebel Few all about? How did you guys get started? How long have you been doing this?

Barry: There’s probably a hundred answers to that one. I just found some old photos today of Chris (Raposo – vocals, lead guitar), and I starting out from 2005. That band was The Hang. Then West Memphis Suicide came along – probably in 2008. I think Adam (Shortreed – bass) joined West Memphis in 2013. Jordan, who we like to call “Young Buck Thunder” (Malcolm – drums), just joined us in Rebel Few recently.

Present lineup pictured above (Left to Right): Chris Raposo (Vocals, Guitars), Adam Shortreed (Bass), Jordan Malcolm (Drums), Barry Martin (Guitars)

Adam: Actually, I remember my first show with the band when we were West Memphis Suicide… and we changed our band name to Rebel Few mid-way through the show. We booked it as one band and ended it as another. I remember going into it being my first show and all, and Barry had made bets with all the guys in another band (Slik Toxik) that I was going to choke… so they were all up in the front row watching and waiting for me to do so *laughs*

Barry: If that’s not support, I don’t know what is *laughing*

*Laughing* That sounds like something Barry would do.

But actually, let’s talk a little bit about that. When I first met you guys, you were West Memphis Suicide, and you guys had a fairly decent following established already under that name, so what prompted the switch to Rebel Few?

Barry: Well, I know that you know how West Memphis Suicide went – a constant rotation of drummers. We had probably 9 different drummers in 8 years.

That’s right. Very much a Spinal Tap kind of thing happening *laughing*

Barry: Exactly. So when Paul (Oliver – former bass player) left the band Adam came in on bass, and Chris Spiers (former drummer) had become a regular member, we decided to change the name because we wanted a fresh start with something they could be a part of from the beginning. And then, you know, things took another left turn with members… so Spiers was out – Adam left for a while too, but now he’s back in, and we have YOUNG BUCK THUNDER here on drums now.

That makes sense. I always kind of wondered about that, because, going through a brand change essentially… it comes with fresh challenges, and fans don’t always like it too much.

I mean, I know you’re still playing the songs you wrote with West Memphis Suicide fairly regularly these days… at least the last time I was at one of your shows, it was a fairly even split between those songs and Rebel Few songs.

Barry: Yeah, we still play the old stuff.

Well, now I have to ask because I’m curious: I haven’t talked to a band yet that’s still active that’s gone through a massive change like that – you guys managed to change your “business name.” Most bands would cringe at the thought of having to get a new logo, website, merch, etc…. but also that as a band you need to get the message across to your fans that “okay, we’re a new band, but we’re still the same band” … so what’s that like? How did you guys deal with that?

Barry: Well, the name of the band doesn’t really matter as much as long as the heart of the band is the same. With us, Raposo writes the bulk of the music and 100% of the lyrics, so wherever he goes, that music is going to sound the same.

I get that for sure. But how about the other end of things – the business side? I can just imagine the scenario of where you’ve got this passionate fanbase, but then maybe some of your fans who weren’t as connected to you for whatever reason only know who West Memphis Suicide are. Then all of a sudden, that band is now Rebel Few, and some of those fans might need some time to realize that its the same band. Even with the same core members… you’ve got a brand switch that sometimes just doesn’t connect the same way with some fans because of pre-existing attachments to the old one. A different name can really change things – for better or worse.

For example, I sometimes wonder how a band like Black Sabbath would have faired with a name change from the era when they were with Ozzy Osbourne and then the era after with Ronnie James Dio. When Sabbath split from Ozzy and brought in Dio, they probably could have just called the band “Heaven & Hell” from the start (an eventual name they gave that lineup), and fans maybe wouldn’t have constantly compared them so aggressively. It was the same band with a different singer– but the band and their sound changed a lot – enough to sound like two completely different ones.

Rebel Few band live on stage - Chris Raposo, Barry Martin, Adam Shortreed

In their case, they changed a sound and a singer but not a name… and in your case, you changed a name, but your music and lineup remain largely the same. I’m just curious to know how your fanbase reacted to the whole thing.

Barry: If there was any gripe with our fans, we didn’t really hear about it. It was never really a big problem for us to be honest.

Well that’s great, glad to hear it.

Jordan:  I think people become emotionally attached to “that band” the way it is they hear them when they become a fan. A case of “they know it that way, and they like it that way.” I think we’ve all been there. But this band – everything about it is actually pretty much the same as it was before – so maybe that’s why fans were so quick to accept the switch.

I mean, I did *laughs*.

So with the band essentially being the same – West Memphis Suicide is now Rebel Few – the name has changed, but the music’s the same, the attitude and everything else is still the same… how would you guys describe your music then? Your style and your niche? I know how I would personally describe it, but I want to hear how you do.

Barry: Well now I want to hear how you would describe it *laughing*

Let’s start with yours first and we’ll get to my description after.

Barry: Well, for me, I’ve always said that we were too heavy for the rock crowd, too rock for the metal crowd, and too old for the cool crowd… but it’s still decent music, and I think people grab onto it.

Honestly, I think you should take what you just said and put it on a t-shirt… I think it would sell *laughing*

Barry: Maybe when I get into the t-shirt game *laughs*

So you’d say you’re kind of like a rock-metal hybrid band then. I would agree. I personally know you guys are big Pantera fans: but you don’t sound like Pantera.  When I describe your music, to me, its got a very bluesy southern rock vibe stacked onto a heavy metal sound… but not in the way you usually hear heavy bands approach that type of genre-mash up. Going back to Pantera as a comparison, you guys don’t have Phil Anselmo’s harsh vocal stylings. Chris’ are much cleaner, and the lyrical content is different as well, which is actually, in my opinion, a significant part of your sound. I think I’ve always considered Rebel Few as a group of rock and roll underdogs with some heavy metal beefiness.

Barry: Absolutely. Like, Raposo, he can play anything, and he’s obviously a huge Dimebag Darrell fan, but if he came out just ripping off Dime’s riffs all the time, then we’d just be a Pantera knock-off band. I myself love Lynrd Skynrd and ZZ Top, and Adam, well, he clearly loves Taylor Swift and all the lighter stuff… and Jordan, well, he’s 25, so we don’t even know what kind of stuff he’s into.

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about your full range of influences then. Who do you guys bring as influences to the table when you’re all working together and writing music? How does the process work for Rebel Few?

Chris: I think it’s a mix of everybody’s influences we bring to the table. Mine, since I was 12 years old, is Pantera. I mean, I’ve always been a guy that can like this song or that song by any artist, but I could listen to Pantera albums all day long and all night long. Barry’s got a broad spectrum – if you ever saw his house, he’s got an enormous wall of CDs… tonnes of them. He’s always bringing something different depending on what he’s been listening to at the time.

Barry: That’s kind of how it goes. Whatever seems to be driving us at the time. Not necessarily one or two bands.

So you guys have been doing this for a while. What do you like most about doing this? For a living, I mean, as a paying gig –

Collectively: It’s paid?

Chris: Hold on, you’re saying it’s a paying gig? Who’s getting paid here *laughing*

*Laughing* Okay, well, SOMEBODY is getting paid in this business. Let me rephrase that: what do you guys like about it, money aside? Why do you do it?

Chris: In all honesty, for me, it’s about the connection you make with other people, many of whom you’ve never met before. The story I always bring up is being 2500 miles away from home, and Barry’s in the parking lot with his pants down around his ankles and a group of 20 people walk by, and they’re like “Oh my god – that’s Rebel Few” *laughing*

Barry: *Laughing* I was getting changed! I didn’t just have my pants down in the parking lot – I was getting ready to go on stage, and I was getting changed into my stage gear.

Adam: That’s his story and he’s sticking to it *laughs

Rebel Few bass player Adam Shortreed performing on stage

Chris: But, yeah, that connection – it’s what drives it all. Just after that incident, we went to play the show, and just being up on that stage and having all of these people in the audience sing our songs – it blew our minds. We looked up, and we were almost in tears up there, seeing this massive crowd of people do that. And then, after the show, people would come up to us and say, “this song helped me through this,” or “this song got me through that.” That’s what’s it all about – for me anyways.

The power of music.

Barry: Yeah. And for me, I’m also all about seeing the gig get put together and seeing it turn out well with people in the crowd. If I wasn’t playing guitar, I’d probably be a roadie of some sort– I just love the whole package of live music – I love gigs.

Adam: My favorite part of it all is when girls come up to me after the show and tell me I was awesome on drums.

Collectively: *laughter*

That’s a bass player comment if I’ve ever heard one *laughing*

So, as you might guess, this COVID 19 virus has been brought up in every interview I’ve done so far for the Creative Wealth Project because I started it after it forced everyone into lockdown – so I know things have been limited. That being said – what projects are you guys working on these days? What’s coming out?

Barry: Well, we’ve got a new album that seems like its been 20 years in the making.

Chinese Democracy part 2?

Barry: Something like that, yeah *laughs*

But we’ve got an album in the works, and we’re working on something today which I can’t divulge to you yet what that is.

Confidential? Consider me intrigued.

Barry: Well, the deal for me is, and I think these guys agree, is that with this whole COVID situation, if we record an album now, we might have to sit on it for a year before we can play any of it for the people. Between now and then, we might come up with other songs that are better than the ones on the album… so, we’re likely going to write, but wait to actually record.

That’s actually an interesting point. There’s been all this talk in the music industry right now about what bands should be doing with all of this forced downtime, given that nobody can go out on tour or perform live. As an industry in which most musicians make most of their income by performing (if they’re successful enough to do it today) – that’s a crappy problem to have. But the talk is that if you can’t go out and play, you should be writing some songs and recording an album.

Rebel few guitarist Barry Martin on stage in front of Rebel Few banner

Now on the surface that makes sense, but as you said, if you’re writing all these songs and you do just rush off to record an album, by the time you release it you might be sitting on two or three albums or just better stuff you could have recorded instead. Having extra songs ready is never a problem – but recording and releasing albums isn’t cheap – especially for an industry that is without a primary income for the foreseeable future.

Personally, I’ve been writing a lot of music during this lockdown, and I’ve got over 20 songs now that I’m sitting on… but I write new ones each week. But by the time I actually get to record any of them – who knows which ones will even make the cut? Something I wrote yesterday could be wholly cast aside in favor of something I write tomorrow.

Barry: Absolutely – you get the idea then.

Chris: We’ve done that with probably all of our songs right now – we keep writing new ones we like better.

So concerning that idea – do you guys have a song bank then that you draw from? A collection of songs written you choose from when you’re finally ready to put something out? I ask because I know you guys used to play new songs on stage frequently – shows that wouldn’t necessarily be marketed as a single release party or whatnot – but if you happened to be in the crowd that day you’d get a taste of what’s been going on in the Rebel Few camp.

Chris: We still do that – when we get the chance.

Barry: We once played the song “Said and Done” live before we even had any lyrics – we played it as an instrumental. Just because we were excited to play it – I think we announced it along the lines of “sorry guys to drag you through this, but this song is called Whatever You Name It.”

You know, now that I think of it… I might have been in the crowd for that one.

Rebel Few singer guitar player Chris Raposo silhouette on stage with hair flying

You guys mentioned that Chris does most of the writing primarily – so how does your creative process work? How much of the songs are done before you bring them to the rest of the guys?

Chris: Honestly, it varies. Sometimes I’ll have a full idea to work with, and a lot of times, Barry will hit a riff, and we’ll jam on it for 10 minutes or so and start forming some different parts around that. Other times Jordan might drop a beat, and I’ll start playing a riff over top of that – when the group gets a good vibe going, things just take off from there sometimes. There’s no one way – one recipe – for the most part.

Barry: I just steal riffs from Lynryd Skynrd and try to change them, so they don’t sound like Skynrd… *laughs*.

*Laughing* I was recently watching a documentary on rock and metal music in the ’80s, and they were asking Ozzy Osbourne what they thought of people trying to rip off his music. His answer was, “oh, we’re all f#*^ing thieves, man. Don’t even say we’re not – we’ve been stealing each other’s music for a long time now.”

Chris: I remember seeing that interview!

Yeah – so that’s funny you said that.

Now, lyrically, I would describe your music as songs for the downtrodden. As a band, you guys have always been about the little guy standing up against oppression of all kinds. Your D.I.R.T.BAG motto… let’s talk about that because that is something that I think people should know about – it’s your attitude and your values – and that is a huge part of what makes your band who you are. So, what does “D.I.R.T.BAG” mean to you guys?

Chris: The D.I.R.T.BAG thing kind of stems from my childhood. I used to get “seconds” and hand-me-downs from where my Mom used to work. I never had a pair of jeans – I was always in track pants – you know, the kind where one leg would be shorter than the other sort of thing. And so I used to get picked on a lot. There was a lot of bullying going around, and kids used to say about me, “here comes the dirtbag.”

So later on in life, I wanted to take that thing that kind of hurt me that whole time, and flip it around and make it something that I’d become comfortable with and that people would want to be a part of. So that’s where that whole thing stemmed from. We took each of the letters and put something that really meant something to us into them – being driven, having integrity, being respectful, and having trust – just that whole brotherhood vibe, that community family vibe. And once we put it out there, everybody kind of identified with it and latched onto it. It was awesome actually – to see it all.

Rebel Few singer guitarist Chris Raposo playing a guitar solo with head back

I think that’s huge. And you know, even though we played I don’t know how many times together, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you that before. I knew what the letters stood for – but the fact that there’s a meaning behind them all, and it’s a big part of what you guys do – that’s really cool.

Leading in from that, and I can name some myself, but any favorite stories from the journey? Any fun stuff – I know we’ve already talked about pants down – but any highlights from the road?

Adam: I can specifically remember a time waking up in San Antonio with everybody on the phone trying to order… well, let’s just say… well, I’m not gonna say *laughs*

Barry: Say what, Adam? What happened in San Antonio? *laughing*

Adam: It was pizza. Just. Pizza. *laughing*

Barry: Seriously, though, I think that anybody who’s paid attention to the band, the Texas experience was a highlight. For me, anyways. But that’s a long story.

I know some of that one – you guys went down there and got to work with some of the Pantera folks – Sterling Winfield, who produced some of their work, and you guys met Vinnie Paul at his house – that had to be huge for you guys being the fans that you are.

Chris: It was off the charts.

Barry: Absolutely. It was surreal. You know, seeing all of the home videos that they used to feature… and then seeing the guys who were in those home videos and becoming friends with some of those guys. Even after having maybe too much to drink in their kitchen – and having those guys still friendly with you afterward… it was awesome.*laughs*

See, that’s really cool – getting to meet some of the guys that inspired you. And from what I’ve heard you say before, it sounds like they were down to earth – the same kind of guys as you probably thought they would be. They say don’t meet your heroes… but sometimes it just works out, so that’s pretty awesome.

Barry: Definitely. But I guess that also depends who your heroes are too.

Adam: I can say from personal experience that nobody wants to meet me *laughs*

You’re right Adam. I never did *laughs*

Collectively: *laughter*

So this last question can be related to either starting a band musically or the business side of the industry. I say that because I’m sure you guys know as well as anybody else that there’s a lot of BS that comes with the music industry if you’re not careful about it. There are a lot of times artists with some hindsight wish they did things a little differently to save themselves some problems – so any advice for anyone getting started in the music industry?

Barry: Quit being lazy. Play as many shows as you can, but work hard at getting people out to those shows. Don’t just think you are going to show up, and there will be thousands of people there just eager to buy your stuff. That doesn’t happen.

Jordan: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t make you better.

Barry: Also – never listen to drummers.

Adam: Try to join a band that’s already doing okay.

*Collective laughter*

Rebel Few members on stage at Hard Luck Bar - Barry Martin, Chris Raposo, Adam Shortreed

Chris: Do it for the right reasons. I think if you do that, then you’re always going to be successful no matter what level you reach. If you’re doing it because you love it and to vibe with it and share in having people dig what you’re doing – you’re on the right path.

Barry: Actually, lending to Chris’ points of doing it for the right reasons and doing it because you love it – Chris drove for about 4 and a half hours to be here today to jam. Even though there are no shows or anything specific on the immediate horizon. That’s dedication.

All excellent points. Now I have to bring this up because when we used to play gigs together, you guys used to do something that my band and I started to notice you did really well. Whenever you guys seemed to do new shows in the same areas, you’d always have new merch available – a new t-shirt design or whatever, and even though a lot of people in the audience were the same people who came to your last show… you always seemed to clean up at the merch table.

I know YOU didn’t say it… but I definitely wish my band did that back in the Creekwater Junkies days.

Barry: Well, we’re not stupid you know *laughs*.

*Laughing* Well I think that’s all I have for you guys today – by the looks of it you’ve got some jamming to do. Thanks again for taking the time for an interview, it was great to catch up, and I can’t wait to hear the new stuff once you’re able to get back on stage and in a studio!

Barry: Anytime Mitch, great talking with you.

Be sure to check out more from Rebel Few on Spotify, Youtube and Facebook (linked below)… give them a like and a share if you dig what they do – these guys wave the flag of supporting independent music – so go do it!

Don’t forget to also share and follow The Creative Wealth Project for more interviews and tips on how you can grow in your creative field!

Music: An Interview With Hot Lips’ Keith Heppler

Hot Lips band photo shoot
Keith Heppler, Karli Forget, Alex Black

Whoever said you absolutely need guitars to make some noise in the rock n’ roll scene obviously hasn’t listened to Hot Lips before.

A power trio hailing from Toronto, Canada, the band brings a unique brand of electro-grunge rock that drips of a dark, mysterious sexiness with every brooding note.

Likening them to the type of synthesized thunder you’d expect to hear playing in seedy underground clubs (like the ones featured in films like XXX), I was ecstatic to sit down with Hot Lips’ drummer Keith Heppler and explore their music. We got to talking about many facets of the music business and, of course, the waves the band has been making across Canada and internationally with their aggressive industrial sound.

Me: Hi Keith, thanks for joining me today.

Keith: Hey Mitch, no problem, glad to tune in for a chat.

So let us just jump right in then. Pretending that anyone reading this article right now has never heard of you before, can you tell us about Hot Lips as a band? How you guys got started, how long have you guys been doing this together?

We founded in late 2016. I met Karli (Forgèt – vocals, synthesizers) through a Craig’s list ad. She had some demos that she posted online that I really liked, and I had already known Alex (Black – bass, vocals). Alex had previously tour managed for another band I was in, so when Karli and I started jamming, we were tossing out names, and I suggested we jam with Alex. When we did, we just kind of knew that that was the right line up. So the three of us have been going as this trio ever since.

So Hot Lips is based in Toronto, right? Everybody’s from Toronto?

Yeah, we’re all located right downtown Toronto.

Keith Heppler playing drums
Keith Heppler (Photo Credit: Dylan Weller)

When listening to Hot Lips, I found myself picking out many different notes of different things in your sound. The first thing I noticed was that Karli’s voice at times kind of has a little bit of a Pretty Reckless sort of thing going on –  just maybe tones in her voice that remind me of Taylor Momsen’s take on rock music – but I wouldn’t describe that as your band’s sound. I’m hearing notes of maybe a little bit of a tamer version of Rob Zombie, a little bit of Nine Inch Nails, and while I never really listened to their style of music as much as others, a little bit of Garbage too.

Garbage and Nine Inch Nails are significant influences on us. There’s also a band called IAMX, which is Chris Corner’s (of the Sneaker Pimps) solo project that we’re also really into. But really, each of us has our own different influences. Alex is really into stuff like Rob Zombie and Nine Inch Nails, whereas I’m really into stuff like Nirvana and Fugazi. I also really like bands like At the Drive-In. Karli is really influenced by stuff like Garbage and The Sneaker Pimps and even some trip-hop type of stuff. So when you throw all of that together, we’re what you get.

That’s cool because I was going to ask you how you actually describe your music to other people regarding your style or niche. For me, it’s got that grunginess to it but also an industrial kind of sound.

We call it electro-grunge. It’s really 90’s influenced but with a little bit of an industrial and electronic vibe sprinkled on top.

Electro-grunge… that works! It really makes sense, too, because one of the first things I noticed when I looked up your band was that you don’t have a guitar player. Especially in this type of music and the fact that you’re a trio – that’s exceptionally rare to see.

No, and that was one thing that we thought about when we started. We wanted to try to do something different. All of us had come from the traditional two guitars, a bass, and drums kind of band arrangement before this. Personally speaking, I’m always a massive fan of bands that don’t sound like anything else. A band like Primus is a good example – when I hear something like that, I just love it. So when we started Hot Lips, we really wanted to hold songwriting as our most important focus, but we wanted to try to do it a bit unconventionally.

So taking the guitar out was a purposeful decision. I find that particularly neat because it actually is just so different than what’s out there in any contemporary style of music that’s not directly on the pop or hip-hop charts.

Yeah! And the joke is whenever people ask us why don’t we have a guitar player, we ask them, “have you ever met a guitar player?”

*Laughs* As a guitar player myself, I find that quite funny.

*Laughs

So you touched on some primary influences to your band’s work – would you say that when you all came together, that it was a conscious decision to take those influences and make your sound? Or was that just kind of how it came out?

A little bit of both, I think. Without really speaking about it, I think we inherently wanted to do something a little bit on the heavier side. We’re all fans of loud, aggressive music. But I don’t know if we ever really talked about it. As we started writing and playing shows and touring, we got to know each other pretty well and discover each others’ influences. There’s a lot of down-time on the road, and so you have a lot of time to share music with each other. We’d often get caught playing Youtube roulette – like, “oh, have you seen this video?” “no, but have you seen this one?” – and that just kept going until eventually all of our influences rubbed off on each other.

Hot Lips Band
Keith Heppler, Alex Black, Karli Forget
From left to right: Keith Heppler, Alex Black, Karli Forgèt

So how does your creative process work then? Do you guys all write? Do you have one primary writer?

Karli’s our primary writer. It’s actually interesting because when I first met her, I knew her from around the scene – but she was another drummer. This is the first band she’s ever sang in or played anything but drums in. So when I first met her for this band, we were talking, and she told me, “I don’t even have a keyboard,” and I just remember saying, “it doesn’t matter, we’ll get one, we’ll figure it out.”

But from the start, Karli’s always been the primary songwriter. Alex and I just kind of help with the arrangements. We might suggest to make a chorus twice as long, or try different parts out in different places, or have an idea for a bridge… but usually, Karli will send us a pretty fully formed demo of a song with her playing bass, drums – the whole deal. But she’s pretty cool, she’ll have us put our own spin on it.

That’s cool. I’m always interested in, especially with the diverse style of music out there, how creative processes are so different all the time. Even myself in this isolation phase, I’m writing all sorts of new music, and I’m trying to do it differently than I ever have before. I’ve always been in metal or rock bands, but now I’m sitting down with an acoustic guitar and taking an attitude like “let’s just see what comes out this way.” When I hit the studio with the music eventually, I’m aware that it’s not just going to be me singing with an acoustic guitar, but by writing songs so bare, I’m really curious to see what other people come up with when they hear them so stripped.

Yeah absolutely.

So as a pre-emptive question to the next question, I want to ask: how long have you personally been doing the band thing?

I’ve been playing in bands since I was 14 years old. So… awhile *laughs*.

So what is it then about doing music or creative type of work that you like most?

Oh, man. Everything. I like it all. I love the challenge of trying to get better all the time, I like the camaraderie of being in a band, I like playing live, I like improving in the studio, I like traveling, I love meeting people. I’ve always kind of thought that making an album was like putting up a flyer for a show – I’ve always thought of it that way. Playing live is 100%, my favorite thing. I like everything about it.

Speaking of live performances, I saw in the press release you sent me that you guys had a tour that’s been postponed.

Yeah, just like everybody else right now.

So, pursuing creative work for a living then, and that right there is a good example, are there a lot of challenges you find that come with it?

Of course. I mean, it’s a gig economy, so there are always going to be challenges. Right now, in particular, is a tough time for everyone, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the industry adapts and reacts to it. I don’t want to get into COVID-19 too much, but it’s definitely an interesting time, and I’m just trying to look at it like another challenge to overcome. It would be easy to throw my hands up in the air and say, “we’re not going to play for another 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 months” and then just sit around and wait for it to pass… but instead, I like to think we can just figure out how to deal with it.

I’m sure you can relate to this – but the industry we grew up in has always been in a state of flux. I started playing in bands the year Napster launched… so I grew up watching Much Music and seeing the old model of business alive and well. However, when it came time for my own personal application of everything I’d been watching, my experience was completely different.

For example, at one time, success in the music industry used to be about iTunes and getting an iTunes exclusive. Then streaming came along. MTV was trying to hold on to the music video market, and then that went out the window because Youtube took over. Music videos used to have big budgets – now you’re shooting a video in your sister-in-law’s wine cellar.

My point is that it’s really still the industry I grew up dealing with – it’s always been in a state of flux. There are always challenges you need to pivot around and adapt with – this COVID virus is just a little more extreme one. It’s still a bummer though: I do not deny that. When I look at my phone, I see notifications of where I was supposed to be right now – last night I should have been playing in Cincinnati. I really should turn off those notifications *laughs*

Hot Lips Band Performing
Alex Black, Karli Forget, Keith Heppler

You make an excellent point – the music industry has definitely been in a state of constant change. Thinking back about it now, my own personal band experience was kind of similar in the sense that we were trying to do things in an old way when the music industry was already going somewhere else.

The model we grew up seeing.

Exactly. And not to mention the challenges that come from being in Canada – I’m sure when you guys tour the States, you quickly see the difference – you can play in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York twice and New Jersey and yet you haven’t traveled really at all. Then there’s trying to tour this giant landmass.

*Laughing* Definitely. Have you ever done a tour that starts in Vancouver? You have to drive all the way out there with no shows on the way, and then you just work your way back. I’ve done a few of those. If you take the Lake Superior route, you’re driving 8-10 hours per day and still playing shows the same day with no days off.

But then you go down south into the States, and it’s great – you can tour California for like 3 weeks – just one state.

*Laughing* Yeah, there are definitely a few odds stacked against Canadian musicians at the start, but like you said, that’s just another challenge.

Then again, the world has changed, so now you don’t necessarily need a record deal and key to the jumbo jet to get your career going. You can put your music online and find fans first that way – so at least when you do tour, it won’t be to empty venues. You have to be a little more creative in how you find your audience, but you can do it.

Yeah, as a band you are more accessible than ever now, but I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, because so is everyone else. The new challenge is trying to find a way to speak through all the white noise and stand out for a second.

However, I will say that because there’s so much more music available, there’s so much more good music available. Everyone seems to like to focus on how there’s all this crap out there, but I’m constantly intimidated and inspired by what I hear. There are many bands we play with and other artists out there that just continue to blow my mind all the time. That’s really cool, I think – as a fan at least.

Absolutely. And you know, music has always been a reflection of culture, so who knows, maybe 50 years down the road people will look back at this time and see that it was the start of something that had never happened before – the accessibility of music. Not too long ago, you used to be able to go to a bar and see an excellent band all of the time – but you’d have never heard of them ever unless you were actually at that bar… and now…

Yeah, things have definitely evolved from that.

Jumping forward a bit, let’s talk a little bit about what you sent me: the music video for the song “Cry Wolf.”

We filmed the video in February – so before all this COVID outbreak hit North America and became as real to us as it has been. The song coincidentally deals with a lot of the themes that are relatable right now – being trapped and confined inside your own head with your thoughts, unable to escape them, being sort of forced into self-reflection.

We’re super proud of it. We got Steph Misayo Seki from a band called The Primitive Evolution to play cello on the track, and this is one of the first times we’ve ever incorporated a classical instrument into our music. That day in the studio was so much fun. Steph is so talented, and just watching her add to the song and hearing it get this new dimension from her cello was great. I really like that the part is not sampled – it was very organic – we mic’d up a cello, and Steph just came up with the most brilliant parts after having listened to the song demo. It was really cool.

That’s awesome. I really liked the tune (check it out below).

That being said, what other projects are you guys working on right now? Your tour has been postponed – so what else is coming down the pipeline? What else is on the go?

Well, we went into the studio before all this COVID stuff happened, and we did some work that kind of got put on the back burner because we were going to be on tour. But since the shutdown, we recorded a song and a video we shot ourselves in our practice room while social distancing.

How did you do that?

We took turns. I would go in one day, and the drums would be mic’ed up, and I’d record my drum part and film it. Then Alex would go in the next day and put down his bass part and film it, and then Karli the third day. Then we just mixed it remotely yesterday and put it all together. So that’s going to come out just probably, early summer, July maybe.

We also just booked some time in the studio because we found out studios are opening again during phase one – so we booked some time as quickly as we could. Karli’s been writing and sending us tonnes of demos, and so as long as things don’t get too crazy, I think we’ll try to get together and work on them.

There are definitely all sorts of red tape on how to do things right now – another challenge, I suppose. But it doesn’t seem to be stopping the music community completely. I have been recording the same way that I’m talking to you right now… with my phone. I’ll just sit and sing with my acoustic guitar, get a really rough demo recorded, and then send that track to another guy a few hours away. The mood seems to be one of “hey when we finally get to do this, this will be cool!”

It’s definitely cool that with the advent of software like Garageband or Logic, you don’t really need to know much to be able to share ideas back and forth with each other from all over the world.

It will do for the time being at least.

Absolutely. This virus actually let us take a bit of time off, too – which is something you need once in a while. We took a few weeks off because we’ve been going at this pretty full-time for a couple years now. We’ve seen each other pretty much every day for the last two years… so a little time off to clear our heads has been helpful.

Yet now I’m really excited to hear what kind of music we write with a fresh mindset. We had been in a cycle of “write, record, do shows – lather, rinse, repeat” for so long, so it’s going to be a nice change.

Time off is something that I think a lot of people forget how important it actually is.

Now, this next question is a bit off-script of what I usually put together to ask artists… but I noticed you guys have a lot of short EP releases – what’s the strategy there?

Initially, we just didn’t have money to do more, so we would just put out what we could afford to make *laughs*

But it goes back to what we spoke about earlier… it’s another experiment in being different. We thought about putting out singles or just 2 or 3 song EPs because we’re a relatively young band, and we weren’t sure we hadn’t totally found our sound. It was something different than the old way of putting out a full-length album. I feel like albums can get really easily buried and lost in the music scene today, but if you’re continually putting out singles, you’re always attracting new attention. We actually took a cue from a lot of rappers in that regard – we were just trying to think outside of the box. Because like I was saying, the industry is constantly in flux, and especially for an indie band, if you don’t have a full team behind you or a big budget, you’ve really got to find a way to make every dollar go as far as it can.

It’s definitely something I see happening more and more often these days – constant single releases in favor of a full-length album.

Absolutely, and it’s an efficient way for a band to stay relevant. For example, instead of having one CD release show in Toronto, we might do two or three single release shows. We still put together the same amount of promotion for them, and they’re still release parties. That’s important to note because it still gives those shows the kind of weight that makes them not just another gig – because there’s a purpose behind them.

Then, those release shows get followed up by a run of other shows in southern Ontario and northern USA to promote the release. With the money we make from those performances, we can reinvest into going back into the studio and recording another two songs – maybe with a new producer the next time. We would do all of that in a cycle – and it just keeps the band’s growth accelerating.

Keeping yourself busy all the time – there’s no lull – I like that. Instead of the “here’s the big buildup, here’s the CD release” and then silence for 6 months.

Yeah, it’s a low-key way of being on people’s radar and trying to stay in their faces. Because you know, I watch a lot of bands put out an album, and they have this massive build-up for it. They release the record and maybe do a short tour of 5 shows to promote it… but after that’s all done, I don’t hear about them for a while. What happens a lot after that, and maybe it’s just because their music didn’t get picked up on a playlist – I don’t know exactly what happens or why – but a lot of those bands just kind of fade away. So we’re trying to avoid that.

It’s definitely easy to miss an album release and keep the momentum going with so much continually coming out these days.

You see it all the time.

So another thing I wanted to talk about was travel.  You guys, from my understanding, head down south to the States a fair bit. Now, this isn’t something I’ve really talked about with another artist yet, but are there any challenges you face or advice you have related to playing out of your home country?

I mean crossing the border is never fun, but I don’t know, maybe we’ve just been lucky in that nothing too severe or stressful has happened to us concerning playing outside of Canada.

How about actually getting across the border?

I think a lot of bands get spooked about work visas. There’s a bit of a cost that comes with one at first, but it’s not really a big deal.

When we decided we wanted to start playing down south, we just kind of reached out to some people and went after it. Now, we have an agent and a manager, but before that and we put our team together, I just started asking people I knew had done it and people who managed artists “how did you do it?” and more often than not, they would just tell me. We were never afraid to ask.

Any advice to someone trying to do start playing down south?

Just do it. I can say that to expect for the first time you go down there, it’s like anything – you’ll be playing to about 5 people at first. But maybe you’ll talk to one of the guys in another band or a promoter, and then next time you end up playing another show or a CD release party and then you’re playing to 100 people.

There are a few learning curves at first with the visas and paperwork, but that’s something you just have to do if you want to go. Learn about it – it’s not hard, but it’s worth it.

What’s the whole States’ side experience like then?

People down there are great. The promoters are really reliable, there’s a lot of talent, and the fans at the gigs are fantastic.

Don’t get me wrong – I love playing in Canada, and I don’t prefer one country over the other, but the USA has bigger markets. We’ve been having a great time down there.

That’s great man, glad to hear it.

So we talked a little bit about the “new way” of doing things in the music industry. There seems to have been a shift where many artists are doing a lot of things independently. What are your thoughts on that?

It used to be people thought, and sometimes still people think this way, that getting that elusive record deal means you’re then home free – but that’s not true by any stretch of the imagination. You still have to do all of the work you would anyways, and I think people have started to realize this, and so more artists are going the independent route.

I’ve actually seen lots of artists become very successful doing everything themselves, and because of that, they owe nothing to no one, be it personally or financially. They own all their own music and their own masters too – and that can be huge.

That kind of speaks to the whole purpose of why I started the Creative Wealth Project. I personally think the independent route is very possible today, and so why not do things yourself and for yourself? There are a lot of other creative people out there who want to work with you, and you can form long-lasting relationships and get repeat business transactions from each other. I mean, I would love one day for this thing to snowball to the point that a band looking for an artist could come here and find someone who ends up doing their artwork. Or a new band or artist looking for tips on their profession could come here to read an interview like this one and learn some mistakes to avoid or take away other advice.

Absolutely. I have learned a lot of different things from a lot of different people in different roles to get where I am today.

Close up shot of Karli Forget
Hot Lips Band

I don’t doubt that. I mean, for me, music and writing might be my bread and butter, but as I’m sure you have too, I’ve worked with producers, graphic designers, videographers, etc. and there are all sorts of intricacies to their particular specialties that especially when starting out I didn’t understand. Yet they all were essential to my finished product, and so I found it valuable to learn about them.

Yeah, and I can attest to that. I have learned so much about so many things since I started music as a profession. I initially began booking shows when I was in high school because I just wanted to play some. I didn’t know how other bands got shows, so I just started asking. I knew a lot of great bands that rarely played because they told me nobody ever offered them shows – I never understood that. Like, why not ask for some or learn how to book them yourself? So I started asking questions, and things just went from there.

Since then I’ve learned a lot about merchandise – things like screen printing and how that works, how t-shirts are cut, what quality cotton of you should have…I’ve learned about cameras, I’ve learned about editing, I’ve learned about vans.

*Laughing* Okay, I’ve learned A LOT about vans. 

*Laughing* Oh boy, tell me about it.

But I get what you mean. Again, using myself as an example, I might be a guitar player who just thinks my focus should be on playing guitar – but it doesn’t take long in a music career to find out things and learn some lessons the hard way if you don’t dedicate some time to learning new things.

I remember when I found out that certain colors don’t print the same on t-shirts as they do album covers. That’s a mistake that could have been avoided by hiring or consulting with an artist instead of just assuming they’d print the same – and that batch of t-shirts would have turned out a lot better.

Yeah, and then there’s the business and legal stuff too – how to get commercial insurance, how to get a work visa, how to drop ship t-shirts to a venue while you’re on the road. It’s actually all been a sort of blessing learning all of this stuff when really I just started out wanting to be a drummer.

Essentially, once you start playing for money, you’re an entrepreneur. Most musicians have to be. It’s really not that different than opening up a restaurant – yours just moves around a lot.

I’ve always said that – being in a band is like operating a traveling lemonade stand.

We’re almost getting ready to wrap up here, but I have to ask: do you have any favorite stories from the road or in the music business? These are always fun personal touches I like to throw into these interviews.

I’m not so sure I have one ready. We’re a pretty behaved band, we’re pretty focused… but I guess off the top of my head, I have one about our first away gig that we did and stayed at a hotel in Windsor. We partied pretty hard after the show, and Karli had this aerosol can of glitter spray, and for whatever reason, I insisted she cover me in it – head to toe. I just laid there on the bed and insisted she spray it over me… and dude, that shit was in our van, my clothes, and really just everywhere for months afterward. I don’t know why I asked her to do it – I had too much tequila, I guess… but when I went home and crashed next to my wife, and she woke up, and she was not impressed. I couldn’t wash it out. It was bad. Even now… sometimes I still find glitter on some of our equipment or in the van – and that happened over three years ago.

*Laughs* See, there you go – great story.

Last but not least, do you have any crucial advice for someone else just getting started in the music business or in music in general?

As a performer, or otherwise?

Well, my understanding based on the fact that you were the one who reached out to me for this interview is you’ve learned a few things about music and the business side too. I had that same responsibility once. My role in my former band, aside from being the lead guitar player, was also the guy who did all the business kind of stuff – booking shows, scheduling interviews, all that stuff – so do you have any lessons from along the way in that role? Things that after doing this for years now, looking back on your career, you might say, “I wish I knew this back then” or “doing things this way would have saved a lot of time or hardship”?

First and foremost, I’d make sure you always represent yourself properly.

Hot Lips Band performing
Karli Forget, Alex Black, Keith Heppler
Photo Credit: Dylan Weller

But when you’re first starting a band – just play. A lot. Play anywhere, because you’re going to learn just as much if not more from the crappy gigs like playing in someone’s basement with a blown-out PA. A show like that, even though it might be a terrible show at the time, is going to make your band a lot stronger down the road. Anyone can play well when you have great monitors and a great sound system, but I’m always impressed with bands who can go into a concrete basement where it’s almost impossible to sound good, but yet they always do. Or bands that are having the worst gig of their lives but you in the crowd can’t see any of that because they’re so slick about it – they’ve dealt with everything already that could possibly be thrown at them.

And lastly, I’d say to try really, really hard. There are so many people out there doing the same thing – so you have to put the work in. Playing music is fun for sure, but if you’re serious about it, it’s a lot of work – as I’m sure you know. Don’t skimp on things. Don’t cancel rehearsal to go watch Netflix or do something else. Show up on time, show up prepared, and do it regularly. We always try to be a self-sufficient band – we don’t want to rely on anyone else. We work very hard to be known as a reliable, professional group.

Great advice, Keith. I will say that I definitely know reputation goes a very long way. And not just your reputation for how you deliver on stage, but off stage as well.

Oh yeah – have you ever worked with a band that’s a bunch of dickheads? They’re the worst. It doesn’t matter how good they are – you’ll never play with them again.

Well, I think that’s all I have for you today, my friend! Thanks for taking the time to join me, we covered some great stuff today! Looking forward to checking out the new stuff you guys have been working on in the future!

Thanks Mitch, it was great talking to you!

Be sure to check out the band at their website and social media listed below – stay posted for tour dates (eventually) and new releases!

Website: https://hotlipstoronto.com/home

Of course, don’t forget to follow The Creative Wealth Project below – more interviews with artists, bands, graphic designers, and other creative industry types are coming soon in addition to useful articles to help you build your career in the creative world!

Music: An Interview With Kyler Tapscott

Kyler Tapscott

For those of you who don’t know him, Kyler Tapscott is a singer/songwriter with some series skills on the fretboard. A phenomenal guitar player, he’s often played the role of mercenary using his tremendous talents to back up other performing artists in the studio and on the stage both nationally and internationally.

But now, that’s about to change. Based in St. Catharines, Ontario (Canada), the day has finally come for Kyler’s own music to step forth and take center stage as he recently unleashed the first single “Fire” from his debut solo EP.

Kyler and I both grew up in the same small town (Cobourg, Ontario), so it was nice to catch up with him again and talk about his new EP and what he’s been up to musically. Of course, I also made sure to ask him for some advice he has for both guitar players and anyone else out there trying to cut their teeth in the music business.

Me: Kyler, my man! Thanks for taking the time to link up and join me today.

Kyler: Hey Mitch, no problem. How’s it going?

Pretty well all things considered. Your new stuff sounds great!

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Kyler Tapscott in front of a classic car
Kyler Tapscott

Yeah! So, as you know, I’ve got some questions for you today about what you’ve been up to… obviously the new EP we’re going to talk about… but I’d like to talk about a few other things too that might see you impart your wisdom on any young guitar players or musicians trying to make their own way in the music business.

Why don’t we start with you: tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into music? I know that you’ve been playing guitar for a long time.

I started playing guitar when I was around 11. My Dad was a musician my whole life too… I actually truly started playing guitar when I was 7… but, I just didn’t stick with it… I just didn’t have it in me at that age. But when my brother started playing when I was around 11, I began to really play probably because he was doing it, and then I started spending hours and hours and hours on it, and I got a lot better than he did very quickly. And then he stopped playing *laughs*.

So when did you start playing professionally?

I think I was 16 when I played my first professional gig. I was backing up a Yukon singer/songwriter named Kim Rogers, with my dad on bass… that would be the first of many more to come.

How would you describe your music to other people? I’ll admit, the new single from your EP really caught me off guard just because my experience with your music before has been a completely different kind of vibe.

Totally different.

That’s a good question, and I find that you’ll probably notice that with every song I release from this EP, they all have a really different flavor. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s kind of just what came out. They all have a bit of a funky sort of groove to them – except for one, which is more of a folk tune – but I find it really hard to say.

Kyler’s First Single “Fire”

Maybe I just haven’t found my sound yet, or perhaps I’m just a little schizophrenic when it comes to music, but I have a lot of different influences that play into the way that I write. I don’t always stick with one sound. That might catch some people a little off guard, and maybe that’s a good thing – I’m not sure – I’m kind of just feeling it out as I go along.

I should probably ask – is this your first EP?

Yeah, it’s my first solo EP.

I’ve recorded before: I’ve been a sideman for years. Since I was 16, I’ve been playing for other people, and I enjoy that a lot – there’s less pressure. You just kind of show up and do your thing – but there was this side of me that I’ve really wanted to get out for a long time, and I don’t know why I hadn’t yet. So it’s been exciting to figure out everything and get this EP together as I’ve gone along with everything that’s been happening.

Okay, so you’ve told me before that your creative process changes all the time, is that correct?

Yeah, for the most part.

Sometimes I’ll hear something that sparks an idea. I might be listening to a track, and then 3 seconds of a song might make me go, “Woah, what was that?”. When that happens, I’ll make a note of it and usually record it very quickly before that idea’s gone. Because you never know… it’s just like catching butterflies: you’re just kind of trying to grab one… you’re just trying to catch an idea.

Anyways, I’ll take that idea, and then I’ll record it, and sometimes things happen quickly, and sometimes those things take years, but eventually, I’ll go back and find that it sparks something. I just try to be open with things that I think sound cool or with lyric ideas, so anytime I find something I like, I’ll write it down and then try to revisit it later. For me, there’s no one way of doing things.

So sometimes the lyrics come first, and sometimes the music comes first.

Yeah, but most of the time, it’s music. Most of the time, I’ll come up with some musical ideas that I build from, and then I’ll dip into my bag of lyrics or sayings and try to piece it all together from there.

So you’ve said before that you have a lot of different influences. I can get that just by listening to the first single you’ve released in comparison to having heard your other stuff before, but are there any big primary ones?

For my single “Fire,” it’s kind of steeped in pop. I’m a fan of John Mayer – I like how he’s got a depth to his musical side.

But I have tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of influences… it’s tough for me to pinpoint who I’d say I sound like because they’re all so different. *Laughing* I might have to just send you all the songs so you can tell me.

I mean, I would definitely be open to that… that would be pretty sweet! Alright, well, let’s try this then: as a guitar player, do you have any prime influences as a guitar player?

When I was a kid, Jimi Hendrix was a huge thing for me growing up, him and Stevie Ray Vaughn… if you don’t go through those two guys, are you really a guitar player? *laughs*

But in high school, I was really into Pink Floyd. David Gilmour is one of my favorite guitar players, and he never plays anything fast – ever – it’s all attention to the right notes. Growing up, I also loved the Dire Straits’ first record… Mark Knopfler – is such a badass.

I was also really into Steve Vai and John Petrucci from Dream Theater. Those guys were significant influences for me during my first 5 -6 years playing guitar. John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline DVD was important too. I remember I downloaded it, and at the time, I still had dial-up internet so it took like 3 days to complete.

Oh, I remember those days *laughing*.

Yeah, you remember the days.

I remember the first song I ever downloaded was Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” and it took me an entire weekend… I remember yelling at everyone in the house like “don’t anyone pick up the phone for the weekend!”

That insane dial-up connection sound brings back haunting memories.

Later, I got really into Tommy Emmanuel and fingerstyle guitar, and so I went down that rabbit hole for a couple of years practicing fingerstyle guitar. Guys like Adam Rafferty, who’s fantastic – he also does fingerstyle arrangements – and even guys like Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed. Basically, stuff that I didn’t really get when I was younger – I guess I just didn’t have the palette for it then – but later on, especially as a guitar player, I was like, “wow, this kind of guitar is actually the best.” In my opinion, the Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins records “Me and Jerry” and “Me and Chet” are probably two of the most tasteful guitar duet records of all time.

Then you’ve got guys like Django Reinhardt and these Brazilian guitarists Los Indios Tabajaras whom I also really, really enjoy… my influences are all over the map.

Kyler Tapscott and Jeff Biggar perform Los Indios Tabajaras’ “Maria Elena”

That’s a deep well to draw from, though, which is excellent for anybody reading that’s an aspiring guitar player. While you mentioned some of the more commonly known ones that people typically hear about like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn, I don’t think a lot of people might have picked out the other ones.

Absolutely. I think it’s very important to be open to what you listen to. Don’t close yourself off.

So what do you like most about music as a job?

It’s different every day; you’re not confined to one thing. If I’m really into gypsy jazz, then I get to work on gypsy jazz. And then if next month I find I’m really into country chicken pickin’ guitar, then I get to work on chicken pickin’ guitar. You kind of get to compartmentalize all that stuff too, so whenever you do a session, you have this encyclopedia of guitar styles or riffs, and then you get to add that to other people’s music and to your own writing. It’s very cathartic for me to be playing music and playing guitar. Plus, you get to tangibly see yourself get better at something. You know what I mean, you’re a guitar picker; you get it.

*Laughing* I do, I do… I mean, I don’t gig anymore… I haven’t been in a band for the better part of a decade now, but I’ve been going through some old stuff on my computer that I’ve recorded. Songs that the world has never heard before. Every time I listen to them, I just think, “damn, I’ve gotta do something with this.”

At first – a spark.

So, this is the part where I would ask you what projects you’re working on right now, but I know you’ve got your EP coming out one song at a time – side note – what’s that called by the way? Do you have a name for it?

Initially, I was going to go with a self-titled release – something just like “Kyler” – but I’m not 100% certain on that yet. I’m more interested in releasing the singles, just because it brings people back every month. You get to create more buzz that way, and I think you get to squeeze out every last drop of something if that makes sense.

Yeah, it does. The digital landscape has REALLY changed the way the music business works.

Exactly. I think, unfortunately, people don’t really listen to full albums the way they used to. Maybe they do – some people do – but I think the industry today is more focused on playlists. People today want to hear one song, and then they want to listen to another song by a different artist or another song with a different vibe, and I think it’s tough today to release a record that a lot of people will listen to front to back.

Kyler Tapscott with an acoustic guitar

It’s definitely noticeable, and that’s the kind of stuff that I want to drive home to these younger people that are getting into the game – or even experienced people – because it’s very accurate, the music business has changed A LOT in the last decade.

And it’s constantly changing.

Okay, so aside from the EP, do you have anything else on the go right now? I know gigs are canceled temporarily.

We’re in weird times right now, there’s no doubt about that.

But of course, I had some gigs lined up, and I was going to be doing some sessions with some other people and writing, and so everything has slowed down in that sense. Otherwise, I’ve just been trying to continue to write and collaborate with as many people as I can, learn as much as I can, and then, of course, try to get this project done as I continue to release new songs.

Alright, so I know you’ve been gigging for a long time, and if my musical career is any indication, then you’ve probably got a lot of cool stories from what happened along the way. Care to tell one?

Yeah *laughs* I’ve got a few… I guess I could tell you my encounter with the German police one time crossing the border…

I like where this is going…

Last year, I had all these health issues – I was diagnosed with colitis, and I had a case of this really severe joint pain – my knee ended up locking in place for almost 6 months, and so I couldn’t walk for a lot of that time. Even when I could, I had to use a cane and a knee brace. So, last year when I was on tour with Amanda Rheaume in Germany, one day, I found myself hospitalized; I had to leave a 6-week tour on day 9 to come home and deal with a shit show of health issues.

Luckily though, I was well enough to go back in June with her for a week, and so we flew into Amsterdam and Holland. While there, I got some “medicinal substances,”… and so here we are on our way to the German border, and this cop car just kind of kept tailing us and following us, around, and eventually they pulled us over. So at the time, I’m thinking, “shit, I have this stuff on me right now, and we’re on our way to a festival.”

Anyways, when they pulled us over, they said to us, “listen, you can either tell us that you have something you shouldn’t on you, and then we’ll have a small problem… or you can tell us nothing, and if we find it, then we’re going to have a big problem.”

As it turns out before they got to the van, I had taken my bag of “stuff” and put it in my knee brace – underneath my pants. They ended up searching the whole van. I mean, they searched everything – all of our pockets… they literally took the van apart.

Kyler Tapscott smiling with acoustic guitar on table

But the whole time I was just playing up my knee pain – almost to the point of being ridiculous, with the cane and everything – and so I’m sitting down, and they’re saying things like “oh so sorry sir, please sit down sir” even as they padded me down. And you know what? They didn’t find it.

So I don’t know if that’s a lesson to be learned here, but don’t try to cross the border with “medicinal substances.” If you do, though, make sure you have a knee brace *laughing*.

That’s a great story! I mean that’s perfect.

*Still laughing* I almost got thrown in a German jail for having that stuff – but I didn’t. I persevered! I persevered right on through!

*Laughing* that’s brilliant. So we’re almost done here, but any crucial advice you have for other people? Starting out – either just as a musician, as a performing artist, or any of that?

I think first and foremost, I’d say to just enjoy the process of learning and understand that it’s a labor of love – things don’t happen overnight, but whatever you put into it, you’re going to get out of it.

You should also be easy on yourself. There’s a fine line between being hard on yourself, which is a good thing because it pushes you forward, and being too hard on yourself, where you don’t actually allow yourself to be vulnerable and make mistakes. Make sure you continue to learn and play with other people. Don’t be afraid to suck for a while. I think that’s really, really important.

If I could go back and tell my younger self a few things, I’d start by saying to practice with a metronome – get your timing down. But also, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and put yourself out there – maybe you won’t have the best show, but go out and play again later and learn from your mistakes; don’t doubt yourself. It sounds cliché but it’s very true, at least for me… I probably haven’t accomplished a lot of things because I just got in my own way at times.   

I remember the first time I had to play to a metronome in the studio *groans*… I wish I would have practiced with one earlier too.

Anytime Mitch, take care!

You too. Keep pumping out those groovy jams.

Be sure to check out Kyler’s music streaming now (with a new single coming out each month!) on all major platforms and keep up to date with what’s coming out by following him on social media below!

Music: An Interview with One in the Chamber’s Gerrod Harris

One in the Chamber promotional image, Mike Biase, Gerrod Harris, Cecil Eugene, Christian Dotto

If you’ve never heard of One in the Chamber, well, you’re about to.

A hard rock band based in Toronto, Canada, they bring a fresh sound to rock and roll that boasts a unique punching power and swagger – just when you think you’ve got their style figured out, they pull out the ol’ rope-a-dope maneuver and put you on your ass.

I recently had a chance to “digitally” sit down (thanks to nobody’s friend COVID-19) with the band’s drummer and de facto manager Gerrod Harris to discuss the band, their music, and what’s coming up for them. Gerrod also highlights some takeaway advice/experiences he can offer to anybody trying to carve out a name for themselves in the music business.

Me: Hey, Gerrod, thanks for joining me today. Some crazy times out there, but thanks for reaching out and getting back to me so quickly.

Gerrod: No problem Mitch, thanks for having me. And yeah, it’s a weird time for everyone right now, but I think it’s a weird time, especially for creative people.

Alright, so I’ll just dive right into things. Let’s start with the band. I listened to your entire discography, I listened to the single (Blow) quite a few times actually just to get familiar with it – it’s pretty good! I’m excited, you know your guys’ style… I can’t really put my finger on it. So that being said, first and foremost, why don’t you just tell me a little bit about the band. How’d you guys get started? How long have you been together?

One in the Chamber drummer Gerrod Harris behind his drum kit
Gerrod Harris
Photo credit: Black Umbrella Photography

One in the Chamber started about 5 years ago… coming up to about 5 years now. 2 of the members, Cecil Eugene on lead guitar and Christian Dotto on bass, they’re from Mississauga. Our lead singer and guitarist Mike Biase, he’s from Richmond Hill, and as for myself on drums, I’m from Markham. But there’s not really much of a scene in York region *laughs*… so it’s just easier to say you’re a Toronto band. So yeah, we’re a Mississauga / Toronto rock band.

So how would you describe your music? You know, for me, I listen to your stuff, and I kind of pick out a bit of a Velvet Revolver vibe almost… but that’s not it. You have these melodies and riffs that are more reminiscent of classic rock or an 80’s rock sound, but then your guitar tone or a chorus melody will switch things up, and it’s just completely different. So let’s hear how you’d describe your sound.

Well, to me, we’re like a classic rock band. We’re kind of in the same vein as a lot of these up and coming bands in the United States like Them Evils or Black Top Mojo and Canadian bands like Crown Lands or The Wild!.  We’re kind of in that classic rock… I don’t like using the word revival because that sounds like a fad – but we sort of have that classic rock tone, and I think that’s the basis for us. That’s where it starts anyway, but then when we add all of these different things and styles and that’s when it gets unique.

Okay, so do you guys have any primary influences? Any specific bands or sources of inspiration?

Well, we’re all different and that’s part of it.

Mike is a big classic rock guy, so for him, it’s all about bands like Led Zeppelin, Guns N Roses, and Motley Crue. As for Chris, well, he’s a big metalhead… like I mean a BIG metalhead, and so Metallica, Pantera, and a bunch of different progressive metal are where his background comes from. Cecil is actually just all over the place. He loves pop music; he loves rock music. Honestly, he loves and hates the most interesting things that you would just never guess… and he also went to jazz school! He went to York University for jazz, which is actually where I met him because I was also at York for jazz, so there’s a little bit of that jazzy-ness in there in our sound.

As for myself, I’m very similar to Mike. I love classic rock. But you know I also love a lot of 90’s rock. That comes from my drumming instructor when I was growing up. He was born in the ’80s and grew up throughout the ’90s, so every week he was bringing things to me that I had never heard of before. You know, I grew up listening to stuff like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, but then he’s bringing over Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine and stuff like that… so for me, that drastically changed my musical direction.

So if you look at all that, when the 4 of us kind of get together in a room, there’s a lot of different ideas that surprise us. There are a lot of ideas that naturally we react like “that’s a weird sort of twist” or “I don’t know if I like that or hate it” … but it’s just because all of us have ideas and we’re all coming from different places. For us, that makes things really cool and fun; it makes it different what we’re playing. Because of that, it kind of leaves things really wide open.

One in the Chamber band members, Gerrod Harris, Christian Dotto, Cecil Eugene, and Mike Biase
From left to right: Gerrod Harris, Christian Dotto, Cecil Eugene, Mike Biase.
Photo credit: Keelan Nightingale

That’s pretty cool. I would have never guessed the jazz part, but then hey, maybe that’s why I had such a hard time putting my finger on exactly who you guys sound like! So how would you say your creative process works then when you guys write your music?

When we first started, everyone was coming from different spots musically. Cecil had already been in a couple of bands, and so had Chris and Mike. I had only really been in a high school band and a couple other jazz things at that time. So Cecil and Chris were bringing in a lot of their own material that they had written before, and we were kind of adding stuff to it. That’s where our first demo EP comes from… it’s a lot of songs that were written as a group but started off as nearly completed songs from individual members. After that point is when we kind of started sitting down together and actually writing music.

And now?

Everything on our 2018 debut studio EP, “I’ve Got Something to Say,” is a very collaborative effort, and I think that’s what makes it so different from the demo EP we put out before that.

So now, our process is that different guys bring in very rough, very foundational ideas like a riff or a chord progression or a melody into the practice space, and then one of us will kind of jump into it. We’ll be jamming on it for a little bit, and as we’re jamming, it just kind of grows. Sometimes it grows into a full song, and sometimes it doesn’t. I find it to be very organic. It’s a lot of fun musically for us to actually sit down as a group and put different pieces together. At time’s we’ll just stop playing and be like… “okay, well, how to do we get from here to here?” and then we start to connect those dots.

Do you guys all write the lyrics? Do the lyrics come first?

The lyrics are primarily written by Mike and Cecil. Actually, scratch that: they’re only written by Mike and Cecil *laughs*.

Musically it’s a group process; everyone has input on everything. But lyrically,  I don’t even attempt… that’s not something that I do, and lyrically Mike and Cecil are fantastic. They just come up with these ideas, and half of the time, I don’t even know the words. Like, come on, I don’t need to know the words I’m the drummer! *laughs*.

But we’ll be in the studio and Mike will be singing his vocal take and that’s all I will be able to hear, so when he comes out from the vocal booth I’ might say something like “Oh my god that was brilliant!” and he’ll reply “Oh you liked it eh?” *laughs*

So do you guys write the lyrics after the music? Or do you have some written beforehand?

It’s weird, I don’t think once someone’s brought in lyrics and said let’s write a song around these lyrics – I don’t think we’ve ever done that. But between Mike and Cecil, they’re both walking around with these little books that they’ve always got words written down from ideas that we never finished or ideas that they had written but never got put to song. So usually we’ll be jamming, and then Mike will drop what he’s doing and run out to his car and he’ll grab his book, and then he’ll be flipping through it trying to put a melody to some of the words he’d think would go with whatever we’re playing. Or sometimes he’ll start writing as we’re playing.

Like I said, it’s all very organic.  It would be tough to say that the lyrics are a starting point because sometimes they already exist before the song does.

I like that, I dig it. Alright, so I know you guys just released a single, Blow. Are you guys working on anything else right now?

Drum kit and neon logo for One in the Chamber
Promotional artwork for the band’s new single “Blow”

Yeah, so as you know, we just released Blow with a music video and everything. At least, for the time being, we just want the focus to be on the single, promoting it, and the music video. But of course, we’re working on other things too. This whole coronavirus situation has changed things a bit, but we’re working through it.

That’s good to hear, I’m looking forward to what comes next.

So, I’m just going to ask: do you have any favorite or cool stories from your musical journey thus far? I know that I have stories for days from mine…

*Laughing*

Yeah, I mean, when you play in a band for 5-10 years, you have lots of cool stories you never thought would happen. You have lots of just shit-show stories that act pretty much as a sign to where the local music industry is at. One of our early shows – I think we signed up for it through it for Sonicbids… Which in itself for anyone listening – don’t sign up for Sonicbids *laughs*.

Oh yeah, I definitely made that mistake once too.

That was a lesson that took a little longer to learn. We signed up for this record showcase sort of show. We show up, we’re holding our instruments, and we actually had to pay to get into our own show – all of the other bands had also paid to get into the show. Then the promoter who put it together was there for maybe 5 minutes at the door. Supposedly, he was at the door for a few minutes where he put on this awful video on a projector; it was like a homemade newscast saying that this was his label, and it was doing big things. It was… *groans*. But you know for every story like that, you get a good one too.

For example, in our first year, we got to open this huge show; it was huge for me anyways. It was huge for the band too, but for me, well, two of my favorite bands are Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, and we got to open for Scott Weiland at what would actually be his final performance. Ever.

Really?

Yeah, he played Adelaide Hall on what I think was December 1st, 2015… and yeah, the next gig was the one wherever they found him when he had passed away on his tour bus before he actually played the show. So you know even at the time it huge for me, because it was like “Oh my god, I got us this gig opening for one of my absolute heroes” and then he was gone. Just looking back now, it’s… well, you know.

The last one. Ever. That’s just, man that’s… that’s a story.

Yeah.

Like now, I’m sitting here, just imagining what it would be like to open for a personal hero… it would be like me opening for Ozzy Osbourne, and then afterward, he kicks the bucket or something. I mean, that’s going to happen sooner than later now, I’m sure… if you listened to his last album it’s pretty much a farewell letter.   

I loved that record. I don’t typically rush out to listen to Ozzy, but the fact that Chad Smith from the Chilli Peppers was on drums was enough for me to be like “Day One, I’m going to listen to this,” and I was just blown away.

It’s really not like anything else in his body of work. But when I finished listening to it, I felt it was perfect for its time. Like, I’m not somebody who’s going to rush out to listen to Post Malone anytime soon, and he’s featured on a track, and then you’ve got a song with Elton John – which I ask “how did these two guys never collaborate before?”, or “why are they doing it now, or if at all?”. But somehow, it all just worked.

Yeah, exactly.

So I know you mentioned the Sonic Bids thing, and I think that is excellent advice in itself, but do you have any other advice from your experience that you would give to other bands or musicians who are just getting going?

Certainly.

Even now, 5 years into things, there’s always something to learn. There’s always something that’s like “okay, I wouldn’t have done it that way, but this is the way that we have to do it,” and you have to ask yourself how you can adapt.

Photo credit: top left – Melissa Aquino, bottom left – Nicole Wolfe, right – Gary Munroe

Take right now, for instance. All of our gigs have been canceled, but we still have this single coming out with no live shows to promote it. This was supposed to be the big year of drop the single, drop the music video, play everywhere in Ontario and Quebec, and then do more content in the fall. And now it’s… “okay, how do we continue doing this without shows?”.

So we’re figuring that out. Live streaming looks like a good option… but for every live stream that I’ve watched, most of them are just not as exciting as I would have hoped, or the quality sucks, so again it’s like, “how do we do this right without busting the bank?”.

I think when you’re starting a project, whether you’re just starting it, or you’re in the middle, or you’re deep into it… staying open, putting the time into it, and just taking the time to figure things out is what you have to do. You know, think about what makes the most sense for you, and don’t be afraid to have to learn how to do something new for the sake of the band.

I never used to use photoshop, and now I design all the essential posters for the band. I took a simple website that we had on Wix, and I’ve done everything to completely revamp it and update it. For the social media aspect, I try to make sure to take the time to figure out things like the best time to post or how to post to reach people that aren’t already following us.

There’s always something to do, and there’s always something to learn, and I think that as long as you’re willing to kind of put in that time, you’ll eventually start to find your way.

Great advice, Gerrod. I think that’s pretty much all I have for you today, so I’d just like to say thanks again for joining me here at The Creative Wealth Project! I really dig the single, and I am looking forward to more material in the future!

Thanks Mitch, it was a pleasure chatting with you.

You too Gerrod, keep in touch!

You heard the man folks, it’s out now, so without further adieu, here’s the video for One in the Chamber’s new single “Blow.”

Music video for “Blow”

Be sure to follow the band on their website and social media listed below to check out their other tunes and keep up with all that’s happening with One in the Chamber!

Website: www.oitcband.com